Reflections about #noemail journey

reflectemail

This is a re-post from my internal personal ESN corporate blog. After having written it I realized that such story is not relevant for one single situation, the same e-mail #badpractices are common everywhere. That’s why I chose to repost it to share the motivations that made me change my communication style some time ago.

Enjoy and let me know your opinions.


It’s been 1 year and 10 months I’m not using e-mail for communicating and I can type that adding my favorite emoji ^_^

I never liked e-mail as communication channel since it never really improved in features since I knew it (and since it was invented probably back in 1973) and when I saw how it was used I realized how much time I was spending not in communicating the message but in interpreting it, searching for it, filing it, checking it multiple times and also being worried that something important got missed.

Here the first though, even with not so many features the channel, e-mail, as such works as it should, it’s how we use it that makes it a nightmare.

As newcomer in the corporation

I remember I understood that if someone important in the organization sent me a mail, I had to drop everything and start working for a reply. The majority of time was spent in guessing what was the real need of that important sender risking to interpret wrongly and to do the whole work again.

That mail was the only thing I had and all rest was guessing (deadline, scope or the analysis, need, importance of the outcome) because I didn’t want to disturb the sender with “silly” request of clarification.

Then I studied leadership and had the opportunity to practice it as team leader and as a manager.
In the Leading course they thought me that as a leader I must act as a role model, so in the best way following our company values and best practices.

If everyone acts as a top performer everyone will benefit from it, individual, team, company, environment…

It’s then that I remembered those initial moments when I worked until late night to reply to those high important e-mails that my manager had to check before replying.

I realized that in both cases this wasn’t acting as a role model.

As a leader I should be the one to collaborate first and ensure that time is spent meaningfully. Any request from me should be clear, the desired outcome should be discussed to really match the needs and the deadline should be realistic and balanced. As a receiver I should aim for collaboration and ask as much possible for clarification.

What I also realized is that nothing of this can be done with an e-mail where clarity is subjected to interpretation, where any clarification needs a back and forth of offline messages, where a discussion is not possible due to the formality of the channel and where the time spent in writing 2 lines of request often is totally unbalanced with the time spent in preparing the reply.

In this video below “Simon Sinek – Why Leaders Eat Last” definitively my favorite about leadership, the message is clear, leaders need to work more, do more sacrifices, “suffer” a bit more in order to be perceived as real leaders, that’s why 2 lines of mail, impersonal and with no time spent on sharing the message doesn’t payback, it has no empathy, no oxytocin.

As professional I would like people to contact me directly (or using an open collaborative platform) when they need something, face to face if possible, to have a possibility to listen to each other, to feel the importance and to share that particular empathy that makes the work more pleasant and relevant and people more engaged.

That’s also why I don’t use email except on those 4 used cases below (and I have to thank Luis Suarez for inspiring with the first 3 points):

  • Universal Identifier: to grant accesses and get notifications
  • Calendaring and Scheduling: sending calendar events
  • 1:1 Confidential exchanges: notice how I’m saying 1:1 and not 1:many, for those conversations where I can’t have a confidential conversation for whatever the reason, in social spaces (1:many confidential exchanges are also no longer confidential as you no longer know who might be leaking out the information)
  • Audit or process needs: mostly for approvals (waiting for the process to be updated to remove the need of email)

I aim for collaboration and sharing what another colleague might like to know or need to know.

“If it’s worth sharing then let’s do it openly”

Share is enriching others, it’s learning, it’s making sure that a corporation goes far also thanks to our little contribution.

After almost 2 years I’m still here receiving no more than few e-mail directed to me each week (majority are CC) and replying literally to no more than 2 mail per week in average.
I communicate much more picking up the phone, meeting F2F, using corporate chat and sending messages on the ESN for private and open conversations.

Also many of my peers know it now and learned to contact me directly on other channels with the benefit that I have the opportunity to share also with these folks a much more open way to communicate and share.

…and how did I start to an email free communication style?

Part of it I shared on my previous post thanks to the inspiration I got from others, part is these reflections and part is going to be in the next post to close the circle of my beginnings…so you’d better follow this blog then ^_^

This blog has been verified by Rise: R069f5669a43d29b82306fd08859eee1e

Advertisements

#noemail the start of a journey and where I stand now

…and that’s the first story, the most complex thing of starting a blog or a book is the introduction, will do my best to keep the pace from now on. Enjoy the reading ^_^

noemail

#noemail is what brought me here,

to add my thoughts on a blog a third time, that’s why the topic deserves the first post.

Yes I’m not using e-mails, that means that I’m almost not sending any e-mail to communicate at home and also in my office. No more than 2 e-mails sent a week in average joining home (when my mother needs the link of the last video of her grandson) and office (when as a manager I need to provide my approval and the process states that is has to be done via e-mail).

I’m an IBMer and for 6 years I’ve been working in a finance centre in Bratislava where since I was newcomer I learned that the communication channel available at office were e-mail (Notes), phone and the corporate chat (Sametime). Chat that I was super happy to use and that was not present at all in the previous job environments I experienced back in Italy.

After some time I learned that we could use also a social business platform, IBM Connections, free and ready to be used by all employees. That was great but, as everything new, there are several BUT to clarify before:

Is it going to be final? Is anyone using it? Do we have to pay for it? How can I use it properly? Shall we wait so that it improves in performance and features? Who’s going to read what I post there?

I remember we received also a short training about how to use that “tool” but nobody really gave much of attention and the topic faded out soon….even if I liked it, I was one of the first users of Facebook between my friends, as personality I’m an early adopter and I enjoyed so much that social network during my erasmus experience that I had to try also this new great social business tool in my corporation. That’s why I gladly started learning all its features and possibilities.

I learned quickly that there were many information shared in that platform but also that the majority of these were shared by the users (social business champions) that as main role had to promote that platform (back in 2010). So it meant not much for a finance daily use.

Meanwhile I was learning and trying to use the tool at its best, sharing files, opening a blog, creating some communities  (mostly for my own fun since nobody else around was giving me credit).

One day,

I got involved in the creation of a video just to promote social business in our finance organisation. I record, edit and distribute videos for fun also at office and this time I could interview some colleagues that were talking about the power of social business and the benefits to start using it.

While I was editing the video I was missing something to place at the end and someone told me: “you could add something of this video of Luis Suarez“. Then I asked “who’s that?” and I got as reply: “He’s a social business evangelist”“What???” was my immediate reaction wondering what was an evangelist and if such job role could seriously exist.

I got so interested in such profile that I started following Luis and all his activities. I’m not sure if he will be beatified one day for being an evangelist but certainly he’s a good man and an amazing inspiring fellow. I learned that he was not using e-mails at all in IBM for already many years and that he could still easily survive and communicate even more productively. “Wow, I would love to do that” was my first reaction “but in finance it’s impossible with audits and confidential documentation required all the time” I added immediately after considering that of course that if your role is in the social business area it’s easy to use only social business tools.

Anyway I got convinced and I quickly stopped sending some of my e-mails, redirecting my communication more on the chat and phone but without taking it too seriously. This until a particular virtual education session I attended organised by Luis himself on August 2013 called “Making Sense of w3Connections – A day in life of Luis Suarez“.

It was an amazing session where Luis was sharing his screen and explaining how he communicates in his daily routine, how he mostly doesn’t receive e-mails at all and in case he gets some how he can reply to them via Connections. He was using a lot the internal chat and a feed reader (I remember he had Thunderbird at that time) to keep the track of all discussions.

I learned particularly 5 fundamental points that changed drastically my communication style:

  1. Nobody is going to start using a social business platform without anyone else inside to communicate with so if you care to use it, start you first and bring people in.
  2. Files, Activities, Blogs, Communities are not the most important apps in Connections, the real communication behaviour change is done by Status Updates (so micro-blogging). This changes the behaviour of our communication and makes it open and collaborative.
  3. The more we use a social business platform and the more we need to be ready anytime to share useful bookmarks and the bookmark app on Connections is the best tool to use for that purpose.
  4. #noemail is not only for promoting Connections, its a different way to approach communication, it’s more open, more direct, more collaborative, better for us and for our receivers and it can be done easily at 100% with Connections.
  5. We need to keep our to do list and not impact others with our to do list. Sending a mail transferring the responsibility to others of what we have to do is unethical. We should wait and directly approach our colleague in real time if we need a favour. Empathy is so important in collaboration.

Since that session I turned a page:

  • I stopped from one day to another to send e-mails (with just few falling down periods particularly during finance closing)
  • I started posting every day on my Connections profile a #myday message with the purpose to work out loud sharing with all my network what I had to do that day
  • I started actively promoting the use of Connections and a #noemail culture (that I found 100% doable also in finance) with anyone around me
  • I focused on empathy and transparency as my main values

At today

it’s been almost 2 years and I’m not only surviving but excelling in communication if I compare myself to the previous years. That journey started on August ’13 brought me far away and currently on top of being a finance manager I’m a active promoter of open collaborative culture in my organisation.

I started passing the message sharing it peer to peer, through face to face sessions, virtual sessions, video educations, coaching, helping many other colleagues in following my steps and understanding how to communicate more effectively if they think each time what’s the most appropriate channel for their messages (it’s almost never e-mail btw).

At one point I got also the honour to co-facilitate a session with Luis about “how to live without e-mail“, the same Luis that inspired me to a change.

Later on (after he left IBM to become and independent advisor for socbiz) I learned from him also something else, that’s #noemail is a global movement so I gladly joined other wonderful fellows to share mutual experiences.

Dr.Connections,

is probably currently the most popular of my initiatives, with many many viewers inside the corporate intranet. I’m the producer, director and editor of these video episodes while the ideation goes to the group of Connections Ambassadors that with me are spending part of their free time to share the message about how and why using Connections to become more productive at work.

DrConnections is my own initiative, spending my free time with the objective to help as much as possible anyone of my colleagues to think about their communication. In order that they don’t remain still in their daily inertia just hitting the e-mail send button just because it’s how it has been always done but to challenge such inertia thinking if there is something better, more collaborative, faster, more secure, less time consuming and with more informative power. The videos started sharing how to use Connections step by stem and then we expanded the topics talking also about social leadership, real examples and communication in general.

Recently I interviewed Luis, here below I post the episode we did all about noemail in occasion of the noemailday. It’s a must seen for anyone that would like to start a noemail journey.

ed. [The funny uniform and the idea behind a doctor came from the fact that we needed to be more attractive to our audience, so the funnier the most interesting I would say. All links and information in the video are directing to our intranet so from outside the firewall you can just enjoy the video as such.]

And now some reflections about starting a #noemail journey:

  • it’s tough when we face the boomers generation that know only e-mail, it’s more complex to convince them that a better communication comes with the use of many ad hoc tools. Arm yourself with more patience and choose you to share the simpler and only way they have to follow
  • several folks got used to the fact that I read e-mails even if I don’t reply them via e-mail channel. So basically they don’t care and they keep sending me e-mails while I keep replying on Connections
  • noemail is pure fun for me, continuously focusing and learning new opportunities to make my communication better became one of the main topic of my days and keeps me active
  • audits will be always your enemy (they are the dark side of the force)
  • sometimes I feel like an animal exposed in a zoo with colleagues that admire me for my perseverance but just as something cool to observe not really part of their reality
  • it’s amazing how many people came along truly believing in this message, trying and asking for my advice, that’s pure energy for me that keeps me going
  • nobody was ever against me and tried to block such communication behaviour that proves that e-mail is just a convention but not a must
  • the strong defendants of the e-mail channels will not be persuaded to use something else in the short term, so if you want to communicate with them just pick up the phone and explain how to use the right channel (and be patient)
  • I experienced colleagues that are sending their messages via e-mail for all other members of the team and via Connections just for me…that’s so cute but I sometimes feel guilty for their additional effort
  • after 2 years I can communicate more, do more things and have more time available for doing fun activities at the office
  • now I come back from vacation and I have no e-mails to check

and now some suggestions:

  1. it’s really easy, just stop sending e-mails from one day to another and be consistent (no exceptions at the beginning)
  2. before starting share it with your direct peers on a blog post or with an out of office message. Keep also posting your progresses
  3. read e-mails no more than a couple of times a day and reply on other channels (I know it’s tempting to read them more often ^_^)
  4. chat and phone are the main channels used
  5. “send me an e-mail”  became a used statement but you don’t need to take it literally it means “send me the information”, you choose then the most effective way to use
  6. There are so many good fellows all over the world that are noemailers that at least this is should be good motivation for you to not desist
  7. Think if you use only one pot for cooking everything: soups, spaghetti, pizza, baked chicken, vegetables, rice, pancakes…it might be possible but you spend much more time for a bad results. Be friend with your kitchen (and guests), learn to use better equipment

Will share more about this experience or the moment if you are still interested some must read blogs and information: